Valley Center residents will have an opportunity in September to put their money where their mouths apparently have been.
In a 5-3 vote, the city council last week ended a months-long debate over whether residents would vote on a 1-cent city-wide sales tax to help pay for capital improvement projects.
The vote will be Sept. 25. A poll site will be set up at First United Methodist Church in Valley Center.
The yes-or-no ballot will ask one question: “Shall the City of Valley Center, Kansas, be authorized to impose a one percent (1%) city-wide retailers’ sales tax, the collection of such sales tax to commence on Jan. 1, 2008, or as soon after as legal.”
The tax would be used to finance capital projects and operational expenditures. Because the council chose to have the tax pay for general capital projects, there is no sunset on the proposed sales tax.
A resolution to set the vote stated that the tax could be used to construct and equip “various capital improvements within the city, including but not limited to a public library, aquatic facility, senior center and recreation center.”
If the tax were tied to a specific project, state law requires the tax to have a maximum 10-year sunset.
Council members Kate Jackson, Jo Ann Gerling and Jack Townsley voted against the proposal. Council members Virginia Black, Marci Maschino, Cheryl Nordstedt, Lou Cicirello and Jake Jackson voted for it.
For months, the council has considered options for improving the city’s nearly 30-year-old swimming pool as well as the public library. It also has discussed possibilities for building a senior center and recreation facility.
Among the discussions has been a campus concept, where several facilities would be built in one location. A city-appointed task force has been studying a piece of city-owned land north of Fifth Street near McGlaughlin Park as a potential site for the facilities.
That work is ongoing.
However, the vote does not limit the sales tax revenues to one specific project. Estimates show that the sales tax could generate up to $300,000 a year. Raising that kind of money through property taxes would require about 8 mills, city officials said. A mill is $1 of taxes for every $1,000 of assessed property value. With 8 mills, the owner of a $150,000 home would pay about $138 a year in property taxes.
State law sets the list of items that can be taxed.
Before the Sept. 25 vote, the city plans to distribute to residents information about the tax and its impact. State law forbids the city and the council (as a group) from championing one side or the other.
Though it hasn’t been a swift process, a few council members said the vote is a response to indications that the public wants the city to improve so-called quality of life facilities. In a community survey, residents ranked as important a swimming pool, library, senior center and recreation center.
For more than a year, a committee has been studying potential upgrades to the pool, including the construction of a new aquatics facility. The library board also has been looking at expanding its small facility for several years.
What would be taxed?
Food and beverage
Telecommunications, including cell phones, pagers
Utilities, including electricity
Printing, stationery sales
Merchant wholesale of durable goods
Gardening, nursery, hardware, lumber
Repair and maintenance services
What would not be taxed?
Prescribed prosthetic devices and mobility-enhancing equipment
Leases or rentals used as a dwelling
Sales of services rendered by an advertising agency or licensed broadcast station
By Chris Strunk, Ark Valley News